OneNote Shared Notebooks – Options and Troubleshooting – Part 2: Notebooks On SharePoint

Continuing from my previous post about OneNote Shared Notebooks on Windows File Shares, this one will focus on OneNote shared notebooks on SharePoint servers. The advantages, disadvantages, and troubleshooting tips.


Notebooks on SharePoint Servers


  • SharePoint is a great team repository,  a place to share documents, lists, calendars, and so on.
    • You can access documents from a browser with more context than just a file list on a file share.
    • There are lots of nice features for custom solutions like workflow support, metadata support, search and query by metadata across an entire enterprise and so on that I won't go into.
  • Many teams  have all their shared documents on SharePoint servers for these benefits.
  • In that case, it makes sense to have your OneNote shared notebooks in the same place on SharePoint.
  • Internet access to your notebooks is one significant benefit
    • SharePoint is accessible via http over port 80.
    • It can be made available more easily across the internet.
    • Many service providers offer SharePoint hosting services
    • If you have a OneNote shared notebook on a publicly hosted SharePoint server you will be able to access it with OneNote from anywhere, and collaborate with people anywhere.
  • Note: you still need OneNote to access the notebook, not just a web browser. However, you can optionally publish an html web view of your notebook using the OneNote Web Exporter PowerToy.


Performance and Reliability

More things can go wrong when syncing OneNote notebooks to SharePoint vs syncing to a Windows file share. As there is more complexity and variety in the components and configurations involved.

  • Sync times are much longer on SharePoint
    • OneNote syncs every 10 minutes to SharePoint, whereas it syncs every 30 seconds on Windows file shares.
    • The worst case time between making a change and others seeing it is 20 minutes (vs a minute on a file share).
  • A change to a OneNote section file on SharePoint requires the whole file to uploaded or downloaded
    • On Windows file shares, OneNote can read/write just the bits in the file it needs to update. This is very efficient.
    • However, file access on SharePoint uses WebDAV
    • WebDAV does not support byte range read/write (also known as Partial Get/Put)
    • Thus OneNote must upload or download the entire file.
    • This uses more bandwidth, hence the reason for the 10 minute sync interval.
    • This is also the reason why Embedded files are stored alongside the section file in a thicket folder on SharePoint (whereas they are stored inside the .one file on Windows file shares).
  • Authentication is a common problem area
  • Vista vs XP client makes a significant difference
    • Vista has a completely new improved WebDAV stack that OneNote uses
    • Vista's WebDAV uses WinHTTP instead of WinInet. WinHTTP is new in Vista, it has some different behaviors to WinInet. Some calls to SharePoint (like file enumeration) still use WinInet. This introduces some complexities in things like authentication when the two networking stacks behave differently.
    • On XP, Office uses a technology named"Rosebud" (also known as MSDAIPP, often referred to as "Web Folders") to access files on SharePoint. It's a very complicated mix of technologies, and frankly prone to issues ... not my favorite and we're transitioning away from it as of Office 2007 and Vista in favor of WebDAV. It uses something called "Microsoft Office Protocol Discovery" [scroll down halfway to 'Understanding Microsoft Office Protocol Discovery] to talk to the server. It attempts to discover what services the server supports then decides whether the user should have read only browse access, or read/write access. It determines if it can use WebDAV or Web Extender Client (WEC), otherwise it falls back to HTTP GET and read only. In general when talking to SharePoint Rosebud uses WEC which talks via FPSE (Front Page Server Extensions) to SharePoint and avoids the XP WebDAV stack altogether.
    • See my earlier post on SharePoint - Access Denied for some more details on differences between behavior on XP and Vista
  • [there's a lot more technical background information I could write here, but that's enough for now, and if I get many questions I'll add further clarifications later...]

Troubleshooting Tips

The most likely problems you'll see with OneNote notebooks on SharePoint are related to authentication.

  • Getting "Access Denied" infobar prompts
  • Getting password prompts that keep popping up
  • Failing to open a notebook (possibly after getting password prompts)
  • Having read only access to the notebook (you can't type anything)

Below are some steps that commonly solve these issues:

  1. Install Office 2007 SP1. It's available through Microsoft Update (so you may already have it installed) or for direct download. You can check if you have this installed by clicking "Help" -> "About Microsoft Office OneNote" in OneNote. The version number at the top should be 6211.1000 and say "SP1" in it. It has some relevant fixes to improve this.
  2. Confirm that "Auto Detect Settings" is on in Internet Explorer if you're using Vista.
  3. Install Vista SP1 (if you have Vista) from Microsoft Update as soon as it's available (soon). It has some relevant fixes.
  4. If your SharePoint site uses Basic Authentication (some hosting service providers use it) then you must use https:// for the URL path.
  5. Confirm whether you have write access to the SharePoint document library where the notebook exists. Go there in your browser, and try to make an edit to a non-OneNote file.  If you can't edit any files then it's possible you don't actually have correct write permissions to that location and should speak to the administrator about the permissions.


[Sorry, it took a while to get around to part 2. I was out on vacation.]

Comments (8)

  1. Back in December I pointed people to something David wrote about notebooks in Windows file servers: OneNote

  2. onenoteuser says:

    It’s my understanding that OneNote is supposed to automatically save and sync when the program is closed, such as when you open a new side note, type something, and then close the window.

    However, my side notes are stored on a sharepoint server so I can share them between my work and home computers, but the sharepoint site is only updated if I leave the note window open or trigger a manual sync.  

    Sounds like a bug.  Is it?

  3. I’m sure you are busy adding lots of great new features to OneNote but I was wondering if you were going to get back to this series soon?  Specifically I am interested in ways to share between two computers, not on same network, without using sharepoint.  Preferrably using a free online storage (SkyDrive) but using a USB stick would be OK.

    Thanks in advance and I do find your posts very helpful.

  4. DavidRas says:


    Yes, I have been extraordinarily busy, but yes I intend to get back to this series. Sorry for the delay. A few things happened in the last few months. Some dramatic things at work that very substantially increased workload. Some things on the personal front too like a very bad flu that wiped me out for a couple of weeks, then my wife and two young daughters. And on the positive side after all that I took a vacation in Hawaii for ten days. But everything else got squeezed… I’ll get to some "free" options for sharing between computers not on the same network, but in the meantime you should read my post about notebooks on a USB drive. That works well.


    That doesn’t necessarily sound like a bug. Let me explain a little.

    OneNote does not actually sync when it’s not running. It’s like Outlook in that sense. It doesn’t do anything when it’s not running i.e. when there’s no OneNote window open (avoids unnecesarily using system resources etc.). The little icon in the taskbar notifications area is a separate little applet which just launches OneNote or a screen clipping, so even when you see that OneNote is not necessarily running.

    However, yes OneNote does kick off a sync whenever you close it. But it has around 30 seconds to complete that sync before the OneNote shutdown process will cancel the sync and continue shutting down the application. This results in no loss of data because all of that is cached and it will just attempt to sync it next time. The reasons for this are again, for system resources, people don’t like applications hanging around in the background when they’ve asked them to close. Generally 30 seconds is enough to sync, but there are some circumstances when syncing to http servers (SharePoint being one) when this can take a long time – e.g. slow network or server, get server time outs after up to a minute, retry, repeat etc… In that case, the sync won’t complete if you quickly type a note and close the OneNote window.

  5. siobhard says:

    I have a question about the table of contents in notebooks that I’ve centrally stored on a Sharepoint site.

    I access this all the time for work and personal stuff from different machines (with different OS), but find that syncing seems to lose data, especially in the Table of Contents. I can see the pages up on the SharePoint and access them individually but they don’t render in the notebooks TOC.

    The good news is that Onenote is now my top application for work task tracking (surpassing Outlook, which takes some doing), but I’m getting frustrated having to fix this issue every week.

  6. rlrcstr says:

    Running Vista Ultimate 64-Bit, OneNote 2007 SP1

    Trying to create a shared notebook on a SharePoint server and keep getting the permissions errors.  Auto-Detect is set.  I verified that I have all the proper permissions on SharePoint.  (I was, after all, able to create the document library without a problem.)  I can upload docs tot he doc lib without issue.  But I can’t create a OneNote notebook.  I’ve tried through OneNote and through SharePoint.  I’m continuously prompted for credentials and then it fails.

    Not sure where to go with this anymore.  I see people talking about the issue, but no real solutions.

  7. vic says:

    i got my permission (read- only) error corrected.  The folder or directory which contains the shared notebook must have the proper permissions.  I right clicked on the folder, selected sharing, then advanced sharing, then select permissions or security.  You will need to select full control, for all users.  Once you have done this, log out then back in for the changes to take effect.

  8. Ravinder Jamgotre says:

    I have a SharePoint farm configured over HTTPS using port 434 not 443 as we at the time had another server service using https on 443. I am trying to share OneNote workbooks externally and cannot do this as OneNote comes back with error stating the url or path is invalid… when I try sharing the workbook using http://localservername/documentlibrary/ it works fine but obviously this will not work externally due to the localserver name not public facing… how can I overcome this issue?

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